Weekly companion animal news: June 3, 2024

Nationwide cuts insurance for 100,000 pets, blaming high veterinary costs and inflation

Nationwide is dropping insurance coverage for about 100,000 pets across the country, blaming inflation, the rising costs of veterinary care and other factors that company officials say are threatening long-term viability and profitability of its pet insurance business, The Columbus Dispatch reports. The company, which insures 1.2 million pets, began sending letters to policyholders this spring and will continue into the summer of 2025. The move comes amid a broader spike in insurance costs. Auto insurance is up 22.6% in the past year, and some homeowners are forgoing home insurance due to rising costs. Still, Nationwide’s move has angered some pet owners, especially those whose pets have health problems that require several hundred dollars a month for care and medicine.

Are pet dogs, cats at risk for avian flu?

When researchers talk about their biggest bird flu fears, one that typically comes up involves an animal, such as a pig, becoming simultaneously infected with an avian and a human flu. So far, domestic poultry and dairy cows have proved to be imperfect vessels. So have the more than 48 other mammal species that became infected by eating infected birds and then died. But researchers say one population of animals is floating under the radar: pets. The risk may be low, but the opportunities for transmission are abundant. “I think companion animals definitely need to be in the picture,” Jane Sykes, professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, told the Los Angeles Times. Sykes said diseases such as H5N1 should be viewed from a human, animal and ecosystem lens. None operates in isolation.

Central Texas organizations help reunite lost pets and owners after tornadoes

Following tornadoes in Temple, Texas, on May 22, many pets were missing, and efforts were underway to unite them with their owners, KCEN-TV reports. Central Texas Lost and Found Pets is a public Facebook group with over 77,000 members who help reunite pets with their owners. Advocates say owners should be sure to check all nearby shelters. In addition, the Central Texas Animal Advocates group said it’s collecting crates and kennels, which the Heart to Home Adoption Center is handing out to pet owners with fences down to help secure dogs.

Scammers in Florida target people who have lost their pets

A newly reported scam in Florida is targeting pet owners who have lost their pets. According to the Palm Beach County Department of Public Safety’s Division of Animal Care and Control, pet owners who post their contact information on lost pet websites are receiving calls from someone identifying themselves as an employee from ACC. The callers are telling the owners that their lost pets are injured and that the owners need to send money to address the medical needs of their pets. ACC officials said they will never ask for money over the phone and will treat injured animals while attempting to find their owners. If anyone receives a suspicious call, they are asked to report it to law enforcement and the agency where their lost pet is listed, CBS 12 reports.

Pet owners are happier than non-pet owners, Rover survey finds

Pet owners appear to be happier than those without pets. That’s according to Philip Tedeschi, founder of the Institute for Human-Animal Connection at the University of Denver, and backed by a new poll from Rover. Rover found 74% of people with pets report being happy, while only 66% of people without pets feel the same way. People with pets report feeling more loved on a daily basis—52% versus 44%, respectively. Further boosting their mental health, pet owners also exercise and spend more time outside compared to their pet-free counterparts, with 72% getting outside for at least 30 minutes daily compared to 49%. “The connection to a dog or cat can activate the neurotransmitters of oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine, and reduce the stress transmitters,” lowering anxiety and depression, Tedeschi said. Axios has more.

Heartburn medications may help fight canine cancer, Texas A&M researchers find

Researchers at the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences have discovered that proton pump inhibitors—medications commonly used to treat heartburn and acid reflux in people and animals—may be effective at fighting cancer and other immune disorders in dogs, building on similar research in human medicine. Proton pumps are channels that regulate how different molecules are distributed throughout body systems. While proton pump inhibitors are designed to resist the proton pumps that govern stomach acid production, new research suggests they also may affect other types of pumps, including those in cancer and immune cells. “While we can’t use PPIs alone to treat cancer, we’re hopeful that we may be able to improve the effectiveness of chemotherapies by combining them with PPIs sometime in veterinary medicine in the future,” said Texas A&M assistant professor Dr. Emily Gould.

Arista Advanced Pet Care aims to reshape emergency and specialty pet care

Arista Advanced Pet Care has launched, with the goal of redefining specialty and emergency pet care under a shared ownership model. The company is led by Dr. Jennifer Welser, serving as president. Welser previously served as chief strategy officer at CityVet and global chief medical officer at Mars Veterinary Health. According to the announcement, “Arista Advanced Pet Care distinguishes itself by building new multispecialty referral and 24/7 emergency hospitals dedicated to serving primary care veterinarians and their clients by treating pet health issues beyond the scope of general practice. By partnering with veterinary owners who have a meaningful stake and a seat at the table, multispecialty veterinary teams are empowered to build their hospital in their community.”

ImpriMed launches AI-powered ‘Drug Response Predictions’

Precision medicine startup ImpriMed announced the launch of ImpriMed Drug Response Predictions, meant to augment the company’s Personalized Prediction Profile service. DRP is now being offered as a standalone test. According to the company, the test “uses AI models…to make personalized treatment predictions for canine cancer.” It uses a proprietary drug sensitivity test that analyzes the efficacy of up to 13 of the most prescribed blood cancer drugs on patients’ living cells, ImpriMed says.